Let's take a walk around the yard. Is it OK to water plants with ice cubes? Some gardeners take it all in stride with a most-plants-are-replaceable, let's-wait-and-see attitude, while some of us need to lie down with a cold compress while waiting for signs of life on a $2 hosta. Brown, dry branches should be tested with a thumbnail test to determine if they are really dead. If rabbits girdled branches with white wood visible, the portions above will likely die. 57301, Eh? Swollen, soon-to-emerge buds can often be seen. Brown patches in lawn: Rake dead grass and look closely for green shoots sprouting at soil level, which should appear by late May if grass crowns are alive. Check for moist, plump buds at twig tips. If no buds are visible, squeeze the crown tissue to see if it's firm, or if it's squishy, rotten and most likely dead. Swollen, soon-to-emerge buds can often be seen. As well, many books are out there on perennial gardening, and one aimed at your specific region is always a handy thing to have for advice tailored to local conditions. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor, This rabbit-damaged hedge was pruned back to 6 inches above ground with new growth beginning. Early summer: Dead-head flowers and remove any stringy bits at the end of flowering season. If a perennial seems to be lagging behind, check for life by gently brushing away soil near the plant's crown (the area near soil level where new shoots arise.) When To Cut Back Perennials. Dead-heading should be done weekly or fortnightly during summer unless you are looking for seed stock. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor, 101 5th Street North, Oak, linden and ash are among the last to leaf. Asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries: Observe and react similar to perennial flowers, described above. Sometimes foliage is brown and brittle, but the twigs remain alive, ready to grow and fresh. Let's take a walk around the yard. The stems of the plant should be pliable and firm and will have a green cast on the inside if they are still alive. Other species lag behind, like hosta. In the crunch of fall chores and yard cleanup, don’t forget to leave time for garden perennials, too.. Live twigs have a thin green layer, the cambium, between the outer gray or brown bark and inner white wood. If the roots are like dark, dry threads, or slimy-soft, or if they fall away with a touch, then the plant is likely as dead as it looks. A sure way of letting your ego take a knock is to care for a plant that then goes and dies on you. Perennial flowers: Patience is the key. They may not show any signs of life at all. Consider the age of your bygone perennials; those that have graced your garden for more than five or six years may simply have “died of old age.” If you keep a garden journal, over the years you will be prepared for a plant’s passing and better able to come up with a new garden plan. Perennials are the come-back stars of the garden, returning each spring after going dormant in winter. A lavender plant that is still alive will reveal a green or white color, while a dead plant has a hollow or brown stem. Perennial flowers: Patience is the key. If the crown seems solid, some slow perennials wait until early June. Fargo, Younger plants might be slower to emerge. Gently loosen the soil around the base of the plant, and pull it up. The difference is that some perennials, such as peonies, can go more than a decade without being divided, while others, such as chrysanthemums or ornamental grasses, like to be dug and separated every couple of years. In all likelihood, they are not “dead”. If questioning a shrub's condition, give the "thumbnail test" by scratching twigs. Flush dog-spots with ample water. Go ahead, go outside and feel some of your plant stems, pick up a dead branch from the ground to feel the temperature difference between a live and dead branch. If no buds are visible, squeeze the crown tissue to see if it's firm, or if it's squishy, rotten and most likely dead. Live twigs are more pliable, dead twigs are brittle. If the stem is mushy or brittle, check the roots for the same conditions. How do you tell if Underwatering vs overwatering? Shrubs: Speed of spring growth varies greatly by type. Some gardeners take it all in stride with a most-plants-are-replaceable, let's-wait-and-see attitude, while some of us need to lie down with a cold compress while waiting for signs of life on a $2 hosta. Prune back totally to 6 inches above ground level, and most deciduous shrubs will regrow nicely from the base. 58102, Pet of the Week: Energetic kitten needs a home. Stems that feel cool to the touch are alive, dead stems feel warm. With a soil knife or small saw, cut off the dead “tip” of each wedge, shown in the photo above, and discard it. But, because all plants and gardens are different, it’s best to let your plants tell you when they need to be divided. Younger plants might be slower to emerge. Here are 20 hacks that will bring your dead … Keep removing spent flowers as well as dead and dying foliage. Trees: Species vary greatly in earliness of spring budding. Other species lag behind, like hosta. If twigs are crisp instead of pliable, and buds are paper-dry, the branch or plant might be dead. Wait to assess winter damage on evergreens until June to see if and where growth will resume. Trees: Species vary greatly in earliness of spring budding. Dead or alive perennials, and how to tell We fall into two groups when anxiously surveying our plantings every spring to see if shrubs, perennials and trees safely navigated winter. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor, Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist, Slow-to-grow perennials like hostas can be checked for life by carefully looking for plump buds at the crown. If in doubt, give twigs the scratch test outlined in shrubs. The biggest thing with pruning your perennials for fall is to not be in a hurry. If in doubt, give twigs the scratch test outlined in shrubs. Cut away dead and decaying foliage regularly. If you are unsure whether you are dealing with a true perennial or a small shrub that looks like a perennial, cut off a stem and look in the center for traces of green, the sign of life. Often a plant that looks quite dead still has a bit of life in it and will almost miraculously start growing again with the right care. Observe the area of the stem that you scratched. If the first frost of autumn has come and gone, your petunias are likely dead and won't be coming back. If questioning a shrub's condition, give the "thumbnail test" by scratching twigs. Evergreens: Both tree and shrub evergreens are subject to winter burn. Perennials such as salvia may look dead, but then recover with time and regular care. To check if your plant is dead or just dormant, Oklahoma State University suggests what they call the Snap-Scratch Test: Start by selecting the tip of a twig the size of a pencil. Sometimes foliage is brown and brittle, but the twigs remain alive, ready to grow and fresh. Removing flowers promotes the growth of fresh leaves and often more flowers in many species of perennials. How do you know if you are overwatering your plants? Shrubs: Speed of spring growth varies greatly by type. Wait until June to determine if, and where, regrowth occurs. Older, established perennials with larger root systems usually begin spring growth before last year's new plantings of the same type. Perennials 101, Seasonal Activities through the Year. Indoor palm type plants can also rejuvenate themselves after a seemingly harsh trimming of dead parts, even when down to a stem. What does an overwatered plant look like? Cecil N. Decker, 76, of Millville, Minn., formerly of Theilman, Minn. Can you identify this berry, controlling houseplant gnats, and the Ambrosia apple, Preventing deer damage to trees, non-poisonous poinsettias, and identifying voles, Fact or fiction: 10 houseplant myths debunked, Edible berries, potting soil and winter mulch. But don’t let their appearance fool you. Perennials typically bloom during the spring and summer, die back in the fall and winter, and return the following growing season. Wait before yanking dead seeming stems. We fall into two groups when anxiously surveying our plantings every spring to see if shrubs, perennials and trees safely navigated winter. Older, established perennials with larger root systems usually begin spring growth before last year's new plantings of the same type. 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